South Indian cuisine usually encompasses the five Southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Telangana, and Kerala. Both the geography and cultural influence of the South has an influence on the region's cuisine. As with most countries, there are large regional differences and each state's cuisine can vary greatly even within a specific state. There are typically vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes for all five states. Additionally, all regions have typical main dishes, snacks, light meals, desserts, and drinks that are well-known in their respective region.
South India has a hot, humid climate and all its states are coastal. Rainfall is abundant and so is the supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, and rice. Andhra Pradesh produces fiery Andhra cuisine which is largely vegetarian yet has a huge range of seafood in its coastal areas. Tamilnadu has Chettinad cuisine, perhaps the fieriest of all Indian food. This style too is largely vegetarian.
From Kerala comes Malabari cooking, with its repertoire of tasty seafood dishes. Hyderabad is the home of the Nizams (rulers of Hyderabad) and regal Nizami food rich and flavorful with tastes ranging from spicy to sour to sweet. Hyderabadi food is full of nuts, dried fruits, and expensive spices like saffron.
Style of Food
By and large, South Indian cuisine is perhaps the hottest of all Indian food. Meals are centered around rice or rice-based dishes. Rice is combined with Sambaar (a soup-like lentil dish tempered with whole spices and chilies) and rasam (a hot-sour soup-like lentil dish), dry and curried vegetables, meat dishes, and a host of coconut-based chutneys and poppadums (deep-fried crispy lentil pancakes). South Indians are great lovers of coffee, which is usually a special type made with chicory.
No South Indian meal is complete without rice in some form or other. It's either boiled rice or Idlis (steamed cakes made from rice batter), dosas, or uttapams (pancakes made from a batter of rice and lentil flour). Daals (lentils) are also a part of most meals.
Common Cooking Oils
Because it is easily available, coconut oil is most commonly used for cooking and frying. Vegetable oils like sunflower and canola are also used and ghee is poured over rice during daily meals or onto special occasion dishes.
Important Spices and Ingredients
Typically, Southern Indian food will feature curry leaves, mustard, asafetida, pepper and peppercorns, tamarind, chilies, and fenugreek seeds. Huli pudi (also known as sambar powder) is also used to spice and flavor dishes.